|Preview: Celtics vs. Nets||02.05.10 at 9:35 am ET|
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the NBA version of the dreaded trap game. On the face of things, there is no conceivable reason why the Celtics should lose to the Nets. But when you factor in the absence of Paul Pierce, the nationally televised showdown with the Magic looming on Super Bowl Sunday and the fact that the All-Star beak is right around the corner, this is the kind of effort and focus game everyone has spent so much time talking about.
The Celtics are beginning to get on a nice little role. They’ve won two straight and should make it three against New Jersey. That would give them a chance to calm down all the rumors and innuendo, and there is nothing the veterans on this team like more than calm. A loss would bring all those distractions back into play.
NETS (4-44, 1-9 last 10)
Points Per Game: 90.0
Points Allowed: 101.7
Differential: -11.7 (30th)
Offensive Efficiency: 97.5 (30th)
Defensive Efficiency: 110.2 (27th)
Pace: 92.2 (17th)
CELTICS (31-16, 4-6 last 10)
Points Per Game: 99.3
Points Allowed: 93.8
Differential: +5.6 (3rd)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.8 (13th)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (1st)
Pace: 91.5 (22nd)
Key Matchup: Devin Harris vs. Rajon Rondo
After Chauncey Billups was traded to the Nuggets last season, the debate began to build over who would become the heir apparent as the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. There is no doubt at this point that Rondo has claimed that mantle. But Harris had his share of supporters last season, and as Rondo surely remembers, an All-Star Game appearance.
The Nets in a Paragraph: For a franchise that has lived most of its existence in futility, the Nets have immortality in their sights as they are on pace to become the worst team (at least record-wise) in the history of the NBA. Bad as the Nets have been, this team lacked a certain something. There was no Chris Morris writing “Trade me,” on his unlaced sneakers. No “Whoop de damn do” proclamations. Rather, this Nets team had the misfortune of being both bad and dull. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the monotony a little with his behind-the-scenes column on the departure of veteran coach Del Harris, but no matter how this turns out, this Nets team will never be as chaotic as those glorious 1980s teams.
The Celtics in a Paragraph: After the Celtics win over the Heat, Doc Rivers was quick to chastise himself over playing Ray Allen 42 minutes. Asked about it afterward, Allen referenced a book he had read about ultra-marathoners and how that applied to his conditioning. This has always been a point of pride for Allen — that he can log any amount of time because of his fitness level. But an underrated aspect of Allen’s struggles this season is that he has played the most minutes on the team. He has played over 250 more minutes than Pierce and over 600 more minutes than Garnett. That has to take its toll over the season. Look for him to get more rest after the break.
What to Watch For: If the Celtics come out with energy and put the hammer down early, they can enjoy a much-needed breather. If not, they’ll be in for a long night. It’s really that simple.
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